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Developer Grady Pridgen buys Oldsmar Flea Market for $11.35 million

OLDSMAR — Developer Grady Pridgen has bought the Oldsmar Flea Market for $11.35 million and says he has plans to turn it into a "world-class gathering space" for the Tampa Bay area.

"It's right in the center of 3 million people, 75,000 drive by it every day and it has 300,000 square feet of space and 2,000 parking spaces that are under-utilized," Pridgen said Monday. "We're going to have dining experiences, activities, events, concerts — just make it fun."

To that end, Pridgen said he has enlisted the team that revamped Disney Springs, the shopping, dining and entertainment complex of Disney World.

"They did a fantastic job of creating a sense of place,'' he said, "and while we won't be able to transform (Oldsmar) into Disney Springs, we will use the skills they did in making it a world-class flea market and gathering space."

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Pridgen bought the market, a favorite weekend haunt of bargain hunters and collectibles fans, from Richard Ferkich Inc. Ferkich, who died two years ago, moved from Chicago to Oldsmar in 1964 and operated carnival concessions for Royal American Shows, the largest traveling carnival in North America. During the 1960s and 70s, he acquired numerous properties around Oldsmar and opened the flea market on Racetrack Road in 1980.

Today, the 20-acre market is among the largest on Florida's west coast and has become even more popular since the 49er Flea Market in Pinellas Park closed a year ago to make way for a Harley-Davidson dealership. Pridgen said there are currently 300 vendors, some of whom have a single booth while others have blossomed into full-scale businesses covering 20,000 square feet.

"My mother collected antiques and I've had my teenage children bring their friends and give me a bucket (full) of ideas," Pridgen said. "They want me to add an arcade."

Pridgen said he also plans to actively promote the flea market, which has relied on "mainly word-of-mouth advertising for the last 38 years."

One of Tampa Bay's best-known developers during the last real estate boom, Pridgen took a hit after the 2008 financial crash but has bounced back. In St. Petersburg this year, he paid $10 million for a mobile home park on Fourth Street N that he is seeking to rezone for residential use, and he has applied for permits to convert the shuttered Ed White Hospital on Ninth Avenue N into an upscale assisting living and memory care facility.

Pridgen also is planning townhome projects in St. Petersburg and Tampa's Westchase area.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanksate

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